State and Local Government
State and local government often have the responsibility of disseminating block grant funds. Sometimes this process is formalized and requires a long lead time to be included as part of the block grant. In other cases, however, discretionary funds exist that may be used depending on state and local needs. Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training (JT) programs interested in accessing state and local funds need to investigate how block grants are administered in their community. A good place to start is in the mayor’s office in the departments of economic and/or community development, or human resources. Often, existing programs already established and supported by state-appropriated funds provide services and assistance that can leverage activities in JT programs.
City government refers to the city agency responsible for promoting community revitalization and economic development. Sometimes it is the office of economic development or the community development office. Cities can also access state and federal programs, such as funding for empowerment zones.
Empowerment zones and other special community designations are important to prospective JT grantees because they provide special consideration as part of the grant application process. Learn about and consider targeting communities with special circumstances such as low employment, economic and/or environmental distress, or plant closures. Those designations are best identified by working with the mayor’s office of economic development.
Empowerment zones, enterprise communities, and renewal communities are often referred to as “EZs,” “ECs,” or “RCs.” These designated geographical areas relate to a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) initiative, which offers residents and businesses the opportunities and resources to overcome seemingly insurmountable problems. Empowerment zones and enterprise communities may be located in rural or urban areas. The EZ/EC designation allows communities access to billions of dollars in the form of tax incentives targeted at promoting economic development and creating new jobs. Many states and city governments have created “economic redevelopment” zones that often overlap with EZ/EC/RC zones. Additionally, many Brownfields are located within these same zones, which allow leveraging of local, state, and federal assistance.
State environmental agencies can provide expertise and training in Brownfields site assessments, cleanup techniques, and environmental regulations. Most JT advisory boards include representatives of state environmental agencies. For example, Maryland Department of the Environment served on the advisory board for Civic Works, providing technical advice on the job training curriculum, as well as conducting training in erosion and sediment control. The St. Louis office of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources served on an JT advisory board that guided St. Louis Community College and St. Louis University in determining the types of training to include in their program. The North Carolina Department of Environmental and Natural Resources Division of Waste Management served on the advisory board for the city of Winston-Salem and conducted training on environmental regulations. Side benefits of having environmental agency representation are the connections and institutional memories that the representatives bring with them. Agency representatives can provide introductions to contractors, upcoming remediation projects, and potential financial and resource providers.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is a partner with the EPA and other federal agencies that are committed to helping communities prevent, assess, safely clean up, and sustainably reuse Brownfields. The USACE manages engineering, construction, and real estate programs for various federal agencies. USACE has established a network of Brownfields specialists throughout the country, and provides assistance through the:
- Hazardous, Toxic, and Radioactive Waste Center of Expertise (HTRW).
- U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Environmental Lab at Waterways Experiment Station (ERDC-WES).
- U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (ERDC-CERL).
USACE provides technical assistance to communities for the assessment and evaluation of sites. Their expertise enables it to help communities address various challenges related to revitalization such as:
- Obtaining site assessment services and funds.
- Developing integrated plans to promote comprehensive community enhancements.
- Providing technical solutions for site assessment and restoration issues.
The value of connections with the USACE is a pathway to remediation contractors, who may become potential employers and program supporters.
Community colleges and four-year colleges and universities are generally willing to provide in-kind support by:
- Offering the use of their classroom facilities.
- Providing technical assistance in designing the job training curriculum.
- Conducting portions of the training.
Some academic institutions have taken a more proactive role in screening, testing, and placement of JT participants. Most community colleges and four-year colleges and universities have established development, accounting, and administrative staff. Those with experience in environmental-related training and federal grant administration are excellent candidates to take the lead as primary grantee.